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"Fortune Frogs" by Jessey LaFontaine 

This Issue:
To begin this year we are honoured to present Jessey LaFontaine, a young artist who resides on Vancouver Island, and who is inspired daily by the creativity and nature found in island life. In addition to sharing her wonderful art, Jessey has generously included a step by step tutorial on a few of the techniques she has developed over the past ten years.  
2008 was a tough year as we sat back and watched a financial meltdown, political change and people losing their jobs and houses. Uncertainity is on many people's minds and changing priorities have been juggled in order to accomodate all the upheaval.
2009 is a new chapter, an opportunity to celebrate the simple things in life - friendships, family, love and health. Setting new goals, planning exciting adventures, and the chance to follow both new and old dreams will renew the spirit and give new zest to life.
We at Northern Dipper wish you the best in the upcoming year...good health, discovery and prosperity! .

Jessey LaFontaine
Capturing BeautyThrough Art 

            Jessey relaxing with samples of her gourd art.

Jessey LaFontaine's dreams and emotions are transformed into every piece of art she creates. Since she was a young child Jessey has looked through the eyes of an artist. Now, as an adult, she is involved in many forms of art including digital art and design, specializing in fantasy / mythical portraitures and paintings. Some of these artworks have been featured
in art books, calendars, and in magazines. Most of these digital paintings are custom designed to the likeness of the subject or are commissioned.

                             "Angelic Christmas" 
  A painting from Jessey's 2004 Christmas Card Edition series.

Jessey was first inspired with nature's vessels over ten years ago when her mother brought two painted gourds back from a vacation down in the southern U.S. She states, "Each one was hand painted in acrylics and stylized in a pueblo influenced design. I researched more into gourd art, instruments and use for dinnerware, studying Hopi and pueblo Indian art. My first gourds were bought shortly afterwards and I discovered my own means of cleaning and prepping each gourd with care. I was influenced by the Hopi stylization before developing my own unique style, which is still changing and blossoming to this day."

    Jessey uses gold leaf in her work which was inspired by    Gustav Klimt, a famous artist who used gold leaf in all his    paintings. The gold leaf gives each gourd such a glorious glint and draws attention to the intricately carved animals.

Each gourd Jessey creates is one of a kind. Her inspiration is sparked from Vancouver Island and its bounty of beauty. The intricate features and simplicity of frogs, eagles, ravens and salmon depict the island's various inhabitants and the shells and seaweed, discovered while beach- combing, have made their way throughout her gourd work. All the twigs and branches, used as embellishments, are found and dried from the various forests throughout the island, and have added that extra touch of genuine Vancouver Island influenced art.

      The composition of Jessey's images are perfect.  
Jessey carves all of her designs with the use of a dremel, which is the most time consuming part of the creation. She then uses only leather dyes, making sure to keep the original designs peeking through the tint. She says."I think that the beauty of any gourd is preserving that uniqueness that gives the gourd its name."
     The wide band around the neck of this gourd sets off the                                    hovering hummingbirds.

When discussing embellishments, which give Jessey's work a professional finish and interest, Jessey adds, "Almost all my gourds have small glass bead embellishments or feathers. I tend to pick colours that compliment the leather dyes such as greens to offhand the dark oxblood reds and the rich sienna's in my work. I find it adds and creates room for more creativity to enhance the gourd in its finalization, to have the entire piece come together in completion. Various shells, wood and seaweed have been combed from the vast beaches here and have been woven into some of the gourd art I present."
Jessey has done various commission pieces for private buyers and currently her works are sold in art galleries centered on Vancouver Island. She has also attended various craft venues when living in Calgary, Alberta, and hopes to participate in upcoming shows such as the Milner Garden Art Festival located in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. She hopes to seek out other opportunities in the upcoming year as well.
When asked what Jessey's long term goals are she states," My current love for gourd art is ever expanding and evolving. I hope to expand my knowledge and share my experience with others whom appreciate such a wonderful artistic endeavor as gourds have given to me. I plan to attend many more local events and share my joy of gourds with others."
"I also span my horizons to drawing, painting and photography, capturing the beauty in everything around us. I plan on expanding my photography skills into print and hope to dive into that art form more in the upcoming year. So stay tuned everyone!"
What advice does Jessey have for new artists:
"Artistic creativity is bred in all of us and each has ways of expressing into creation. Never lose sight of your goals and don't become discouraged. Surround yourself with other artistic people and their vibe will rub off onto you as yours do to them and those around you. Find your creative flow and the artist in you will make everything work."
                               "Loon Call" 
    Here's the finished project from the tutorial featured in the                                 right-hand column.
Jessey, thank you ever so much for this article. We love your art and you too! You are gracious and lovely. Good luck in all your future endeavors. Carolyn and Linda
To view Jessey LaFontaine's website click here:
To view Jessey's paintings click here:
To learn more about Gustav Klimt and his art click here:
To learn more about the Milner Garden Art Festival click here:

Wedding Bells Ring
For Jamie & Mark 
Jamie and Mark on their wedding day. They are a fine looking    couple and Jamie is a beautiful bride. 
Jamie looking over the completed gourds. The large gourd with the slit in it is where people deposited their gift envelopes.
The table settings were absolutely gorgeous. There were 39 gourds placed on golden charger plates surrounded with fall leaves. There were lights placed in the center of  the gourds which gave the room an ambience that would soon not be forgotten.
It was Lori Majer (Jamie's mom) along with Mary Boulay and Jenn Watts that organized  the wedding gourds.  Friend Carol is the person who carved and stained the gourds. They were  perfect for an October 12th fall wedding. 
Thank you Lori for sending in this story. It looks like it was the perfect wedding and we wish Jamie and Mark every happiness that married life can bring.

Dear Carolyn
Hi there,
I have been selling gourds at shows but find that people want them to be functional as well as decorative. I have not been able to find anything up until now that will safely seal them. I think that my sales would increase if I would solve this problem. Could you give me any hints or advice on using the Mas Epoxy and will it do the trick?
Thank you,
Kathi Harrison - Halifax, Nova Scotia
Dear Kathi,
After spending a lot of time doing research we finally came across this excellent product called Mas Epoxy. Not only is it water repellent but it is also water proof. If you want to make vases or bowls out of gourds, this is the product for you. 

Mas Epoxy is a two part solution, comes with plastic gloves, mixing sticks and measuring cups. Simply mix according to instructions and brush on using a disposable paint brush. (Brushes can't be cleaned or reused.) Don't mix a large quantity as a little goes a long way.
After the first coat dries (overnight), lightly sand the interior and add a second coat. Although this product is almost odourless, you should still respect it and use in a well-ventilated area. Wear a mask and don't forget the gloves! Here is the link for Mas Epoxy for your convenience. 

Reader's Corner

Charlene from Southern California won't have winter winds, ice and snow on her gourd crop like we do up here in the northern climate. Believe it or not the severe winter conditions do not affect the drying process. Growers may want to check their   crops and turn in a month or two.

Hello Northern Dipper,
Thank you for the online newsletter. It allows me to see what gourd artists from around the world are creating. I live in Southern California but am a long way from most gourd activities so I rely on the Internet for information. I do travel to Welburn's Gourd Farm which is 2 1/2 hours away once a year.
Charlene Sith
Hi Charlene,
We are always so happy to hear from our readers! Glad to see that you are getting so much enjoyment from our newsletter. It is a great way to keep in touch with gourd artists and enthusiasts from all over. We would love to see some of your gourd work as well.
Warm regards, Carolyn

NEXT ISSUE:  We are very excited about our next issue of Gourd Fever. To begin with we are featuring two women who have been living and sharing the gourd life in Northeast Georgia since 1976. Janice Lymburner and Priscilla Wilson began their journey by experimenting with gourds and soon were selling their wares at craft fairs. In 1983 they built their first permanent shop and in 1991 moved to their present location where they now make Gourd Impressions pottery as well as gourd art. The Gourd Place is the oldest retail gourd crafting business in the United States as far as they know and we can't wait to learn more about these two artists and entrepreneurs. 

We love gourd sculpture as does Donna Bagdan and Brian Heidecker. Next month we have some incredible photos of some of the projects these two have been working on. When we saw them all we could say is "Wow" and we are certain that once you see them, you will be giving the same response.

Our readership consists of so many talented people and David Dix is one of them. He has sent in photos of some of the gourds he has hanging around his place as well as a poem celebrating the growing habits of this vigorous vine. It is very amusing and true and we would like to share this with you next month.


Until we meet again take care everyone. And once again, all the best in the upcoming year 2009.
                           Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond


PS If you have any stories, photos or comments that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to


   Volume 5,Number 48  
In this issue:
Jessey LaFontaine - Mythical Island Art 

A Step by Step Tutorial by Jessey LaFontaine

Wedding Gourds Designed by Lori Majer and Friends

Dear Carolyn, Reader's Corner and Gourd Sightings

For anyone who loves history and gourds this book is a must to add to your home library. From watering cans, to working utensils and bowls, Mohr brings fun and authenticy to her gourd creations.
 This book touches on everything from growing to crafting. Over 220 colour photos and easy to read text, this book is ideal for beginners.
For details on these books and more :

Jessey LaFontaine

These detailed cranes come alive on this gourd.

Close-up of the the dancing crane.


1.) Clean the outside of the gourd using a soft scrubbie and warm water. Always wear a safety mask as the mould is bad for the lungs.
2.) A bandsaw can be used for straight cuts. For curves & angles, a hacksaw or jigsaw can be used.
3.) Jessey uses a flat black for the inside of all of her gourds, specifically a black spray paint. Protect the gourd with newspaper during this process. Tape the rim with painters tape for extra protection. Dab on black leather dye on any spots you may have missed.
4.) Using a sponge brush and paper towels apply leather dyes moving from the lighter shades to the darker. Here Jessey begins with British Tan starting from the top and moving vertically catching drips. Move swiftly to avoid lines and drip marks.
To get a two tone effect Jessey then applys a layer of Oxblood around the rim allowing the dye to drip down. Use a paper towel to smooth the drips and blend into the surface. Allow to dry for 4-6 hours in a well-ventilated spot. 
5.) Pencil in your design. For duplicate designs draw your image onto carbon paper so the same image can be used on the other side. Simply use a white eraser to eradicate mistakes - the dye will not be removed. 
6.) Using a small brush (one for each colour) dip into leather dye and use like paint. Some bleeding can occur so allow some excess room at the edges for the dye to spread out.Allow to fully dry for 4-6 hours.
7.) Using a dremel, etch or carve into the outline and detail lines of the image. Jessey also uses different sized Burrs to accomplish this technique. Another technique that can be used for this purpose is woodburning which will create a black line for the desired effect. Both of these techniques will make your image jump.
7.) Jessey uses a two-part process for gold-leafing that does not involve antiquing.
Step 1: Apply the gold leaf adhesive with a paint brush to the designated area where you want the gold to appear. Wait 1 hour or until the milkiness turns clear. Use your fingers to apply a thin sheet of gold to the area and smooth gently to cover the entire spot.
Step 2: After the leaf is applied, paint with Gold Leaf Sealer with a paint brush. This will protect and seal the leaf and prevent flaking. Allow 1-2 hours to fully dry and then outline the area using your dremel or wood-burner allowing a nice clean line.
8.) Apply the final varnish. Jessey likes Miniwax-Polyurethane semi-gloss or satin finish as she finds it enhances the colour and prevents fading. Do 2 light coats - heavy coats will cause the dyes to run. Let dry 2-4 hours or better yet dry overnight in a well ventilated area.
9.) Adding the finishing touches: Drill holes for embellishments...twigs, dried grasses or beadwork are appealing. The finished project is pictured on the left.

 A Visit From The HOG's
 to Northern Dipper
The HOG's ( Happy Ontario Gourders) is a group that know how to have a good time. Every month or two they meet at a different person's house or in the case of Northern Dipper, in their bright workshop area. They always have a theme to their meetings and at this meeting Carolyn taught them how to make gourd drums.

Steve Jenkins beginning the prep for his  gourd drum. Thick walled gourds are required for drums such as the African Wine Kettle gourd. To view this type of gourd click here:


Cutting the gourds and sanding the top so the goat skin will attach smoothly thus creating a great tone.

Clockwise beginning from the left hand top corner: Debby Russell, Steve Jenkins, Carolyn Cooper, Bonnie McLeod and Adrienne Fehr.
Here they used black cord to attach the skin. A new product at Northern Dipper is bright red cord that will add personality to your gourd drum!
To view this product click here:
For drum making workshops and others too click here:



Above is the Fall Engraving Workshop where a simple technique of wet on wet dyes is followed by engraving that will give you the foundation of a beautiful bowl. A pine needle rim completes the project.


Here are three women showing off their projects. Of course the Northern Dipper pup Jade, who is such a good dog, couldn't be left out of the photo!

Gourd Sightings
Five talented performers of the World Fest Ensemble unite with the Vancouver Chamber Choir to bring musical arrangements from around the world to celebrate the magic of Christmas. Gourd instruments were spotted during a couple of the songs.


This is Jen, Carolyn's daughter. Now it is not often that Carolyn and Linda use this newsletter to talk about their family but in this instance they could not resist. Jen has just finished her first semester in school where she is studying to become a RPN (Registered Nursing Aid) and she is doing fantastic.
Jen has made the Honour Roll and her teachers are encouraging her to consider furthering her career in the medical field after she has finished this two year program. On top of going to school full time Jen is also working.
Congatulations Jen! Linda and Carolyn are both very proud of you and they just know that you will be very successful in your future career.

Published by:
Pamela  Grossi
1535 Mrytle Ave
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7
Northern Dipper Farm
5376 County Rd 56, RR # 2
Cookstown, Ont, L0L 1L0
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada